Despite going ahead through a Memphis Depay’s goal, United succeeded in delivering an even more abysmal performance than the one they had produced at Sunderland on Saturday and were eventually deservedly beaten by a hungrier and more organised side.
1) Enough is enough
United and Van Gaal have had more “last straw” moments in four months than some managers have in a decade but, despite falling short in each of those instances, the Dutchman somehow continues to cling on to his job. United have failed to win in 18 of their last 27 games in all competitions and their wins against Derby and Stoke only served to highlight the umpteenth false dawn of the season.
In normal circumstances, dismal defeats such as the one United suffered last night and the one against Sunderland on Saturday would have spelt the end for a manager who’s been under pressure for as long as Van Gaal has. However, considering the sheer ineptitude of those running United, expect the former Holland manager to remain in charge for the foreseeable future as the club sleepwalks into the abyss.
2) Champions League? You’re having a laugh
Much has been made of United’s demotion to the Europa League, a competition which is often considered a nuisance rather than a genuine opportunity for silverware. Undoubtedly, European football’s second tier no longer carries any of the prestige it had when it was named UEFA Cup and while the round of 32 features the likes of Valencia, Liverpool, Napoli and Borussia Dortmund, the tournament remains underwhelming.
However, it is a stage United might have to get used to in the foreseeable future for Van Gaal’s side are clearly not good enough to face Europe’s elite. In fact, based on this season’s performances, they’d be simply making up the numbers in the Champions League.
3) Romero seizes his chance
Sergio Romero was a last-minute inclusion in the starting line-up after David De Gea suffered an injury in the warm-up and did not disappoint.
The Argentine, who kept four clean sheets in as many Premier League games early in the season before conceding two largely avoidable goals against Swansea prior to De Gea’s return, twice denied the hosts in the first half. First he parried Kian Hansen’s goalbound header before keeping our Vaclav Kadlec’s shot when 1 vs 1 against the midfielder but there was little he could do to prevent Pione Sisto’s equaliser.
Sisto was then denied by another superb save late in the second half but, ultimately, there was nothing Romer could do to prevent Paul Onuachu’s winner. The question now is, can the Argentine stand up and be counted should United be without De Gea for the foreseeable future?
4) United fans get a raw deal
United fans were charged £71 to attend Thursday’s game, even though Southampton fans were only charged £22 by the same team earlier in the season. Midtjylland fans, who normally pay £15 for a ticket, were also charged £71, a decision the Danish outfit justified by saying it was a once in a lifetime chance for a club their size to face Manchester United.
Whatever the reason, the 800 or so fans who traveled to Denmark were in fine voice and made themselves heard throughout the 90 minutes, proving yet again that regardless of the success on the pitch, United’s support remains in good health.
They were right to express their disappointment too and, after hearing the away end chanting “We’re fucking shit” Van Gaal and the players should have had the decency to apologise to the fans.
5) Reasons for optimism
There are none.
United might well qualify for the next round but this was Van Gaal’s Olympiacos away moment and keeping him in charge until the end of the season would be absolute, sheer folly. He has given up, the players have given up and the fans could soon give up themselves. After going behind, as was the case on Saturday against Sunderland, United showed nothing that would suggest they could get back into the game and they simply drifted towards the final whistle.
It was embarrassing and. even more worrying, it was not surprising.